Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

Kudos To Educause

I’ve previously taken higher education associations to task for not inviting us to the table when it seems clear we can contribute to the discussion and action. So it’s only fair that I commend those organizations that are getting it right. In reading an article about the top ten IT issues in the latest EDUCAUSE Review I saw that Barbara Dewey, Dean of Libraries at University of Tennessee, is the current Chair of the EDUCAUSE Current Issues Committee. So not only is an academic librarian on this committee of IT experts, but she’s running the Committee. That’s impressive. So I commend EDUCAUSE for their forward thinking.

Does A Google Jockey Have To Jockey Only At Google

While we’re talking about EDUCAUSE, their “7 Things You Should Know About…” series is something I find quite useful, not only for my own education about new instructional technologies but also for pointing our faculty to these new pedagogies. The latest in the series is on “Google Jockeying”. What is that? A Google jockey is a participant in a presentation or class who surfs the Internet for terms, ideas, Web sites, or resources mentioned by the presenter or related to the topic. The jockey’s searches are displayed simultaneously with the presentation, helping to clarify the main topic and extend learning opportunities. It’s an interesting idea, and perhaps something that librarians could use in library instruction to get or keep students activated. Just one quibble. While there is a passage that suggests that an instructor, while taking the role of Google Jockey, could show students other search engines, it concerns me that the choice of “Google Jockeying” may send a message that this teaching method can only be completed with Google – and that’s just not the case. Why not call it something like “Surfing Assistant” or just plain old “Web Jockeying.” It’s not that I have a problem with Google, but anything we can do to discourage Google-centricity will help students in the long run.

Reading Across The Web

I came across a few worthwhile articles/posts last week. Tomorrow’s Professor Blog carried a story about “The Lecture Club” that describes an effort by a group of faculty to encourage the peer review of teaching. Those of us who teach could probably benefit more from peer analysis of our instruction, but it’s not an easy thing to develop. This story may provide some incentive to give it a try. A columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discusses the “post-literacy” era in which today’s students just don’t read books. What struck me was the author’s reflecting on the simplicity-complexity conundrum, as characterized by students being able to digest information in only tiny, fragmentary bits. The author asks if this is the price we are paying for technology and instant access to too much information. Though a bit longer I found the text of a commencement speech by Tim O’Reilly did a nice job of explaining an interesting perspective on Web 2.0. He states that the real heart of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence. Seems that libraries have been gathering the collective intelligence of civilization for a long time, but in our collections each book is its own silo. Users cannot navigate between them following link trails. Perhaps what we need to explore further is how to tap the collective intelligence of faculty and students to enable users to find information, not by search alone, but through the guidance of the collective researchers within our communities. There is a wealth of collective intelligence on and among our campuses, and we’re perhaps just at the beginning of an era in which any individual within the community can exploit what the collective know.

Commencement 2006

And speaking of commencement speeches, I listed to a few yesterday at my own son’s college graduation. Something that the university president said in his remarks resonated with me. Among the points of advice he gave to the graduates he included “Do not be scornful of complexity.” We challenge our students too infrequently in their undergraduate education for fear that we will alienate them. I like that the president reminded the students that anything worthwhile they’ll achieve in their lives is going to take hard work and devotion – and certainly some complexity will be encountered. While academic librarians should endeavor to avoid making using their libraries unnecessarily complicated or complex, what more can they do to challenge students and prepare them for the complexities of life after college.

4 thoughts on “Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

  1. Third thoughts –

    No wonder we’re always in a dither. On the one hand we have the advice to throw webpages up during a lecture so as to be mentally stimulated and on the other “nobody reads.” The second claim (based on evidence like “my brother-in-law, for instance…”) is not borne out by the evidence. People actually do read as much as they used to, though that may not be as much as sis-in-law would like. There’s a very good review of the literature in a 2006 book, Reading Matters (which I’ve mentioned here before). Read it and stop weeping.

    I don’t really understand the Google Jockeying idea. Is it meant to keep students awake? Are those pages read? What do you do with the contradictions in results? It might be fun to reduce a lecture to a bare outline and fill in the blanks by searching (though good searching takes time and more than one search engine) or try pausing after making some claim and do on-the-fly factchecking … but just illustrating a presentation with Google pages? Seems to encourage a somewhat shallow approach to sources.

    And finally: what IS it with people who claim the web means we can connect ideas for the first time? A hyperlink is merely a faster footnote. Texts have ALWAYS referred to sources (even when the sourcing is less formal than in scholarly writing). Libraries exist to share ideas. And knowledge – even wisdom – has always been collective. Read Michael Oakshott. He explained it long before Al Gore invented the Internet.

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  3. The last line from Jennifer Moses’ editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reads: “To put it plainly: Democracy needs readers. Want to show your patriotism? Forget the flag-waving, and take your kids to the library instead.”

    I love how the writer conflates patriotism, sustained reading and libraries. It is certainly a powerful message, and present incursions upon our civil liberties make this comment particularly poignant.

    As an aside, does the inclusion of “approachable” texts like graphic novels and chic-lit contribute positively to sustained reading? I’ve found that they certainly help. Moses, on the other hand, seems to imply that educators and librarians should be focusing on the well-worn classics (she mentions Shakespeare and Henry James).

  4. I like the idea of Google Jockeying, but it should really be about Search Engine Jockeying. Google is becoming the only source of internet information and that is not good, especially because Google doesnt give a chance to newcoming pages that could provide quality information.

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